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OVECHKIN GETS OFF TO QUICK START

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WASHINGTON - -Alex Ovechkin has accumulated one of the game's greatest collections of highlights and owns a trophy case full of major awards. But he was at a loss when asked to explain the sublime start to his fifth professional season.

"Thank God, I've had a little bit of luck," the Washington Capitals' star left wing said. "And when I score goals, guys give me nice assists."

After getting two goals and an assist in Tuesday's 6-5 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, Ovechkin became the first player in 27 years to score at least three points in the first three games of the season, joining Hall of Famers Guy Lafleur and Peter Stastny. It marked the first time in Ovechkin's career that he has scored three points in three straight games.

"After the first period [in Philadelphia], the coaches said, 'Jeez, it just doesn't look like Alex has it tonight,' " coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I said, he's got six points in the first two games. He can't do this forever. Then he goes and gets three. He surprises you every day."

On Thursday, Ovechkin can become the first to score at least three points in the first four games of the season when the Capitals host All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. But the milestone on everyone's mind is much bigger: Can the 24-year-old Russian break the 70-goal plateau, something no one has done in 17 years?

Teemu Selanne and Alex Mogilny both scored 76 goals in 1992-93. Since then, only Mario Lemieux's 69 in 1995-96 and Ovechkin's 65 in 2007-08 have come close.

"Last year he got off to a slow start, but after that he was on fire for the rest of the season," Capitals goaltender Jos? Theodore said. "And he's pretty much picked up right where he left off. It's early, but if someone can reach 70, he's the guy to do it. He's the most natural and best goal scorer I've ever seen."

Through Tuesday's games, Ovechkin led the league in points (nine), plus minus (plus-6) and shots (17), and shared the lead in goals (five). His point total is more than double his previous best through three games, as are his five goals (he has had two three times).

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